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Panel Presentation at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Annual Conference in Boston

I apologize for the delay in updating this blog. I’ve been very busy over the past several months, but I promise, I haven’t forgotten about you!

Among the many responsibilities I’ve been handling (including finally completing my MFA thesis–I defend next Thursday), I had an amazing opportunity to present research on Comics as a Legitimate form of Literature at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Annual Conference and Bookfair in Boston earlier this month.

Here is the abstract for the entire panel:

S211. Video Games, Fan Fiction, & Comics: Alternative Genres as Legitimate Literature

Alternative forms of narrative are often perceived with disdain or suspicion even though they address the same plots, themes, and conditions of respectable literary forms. Comics have begun to break away from this stigma, but what about more mainstream genres, such as fan fiction and video games? How do all three of these alternative forms both threaten and reinforce ideas about originality and narrative? This panel will make the case for alternative genres as creative literature.

Presenting the panel was an absolutely thrilling experience. At first, we weren’t sure what to expect. Would only 16 people show up? Would 200? I prepared for the panel as if I was giving a lecture to my students in a small classroom of 25. (This is something I’m very comfortable with.) I wrote out what I wanted to say beforehand, but gave myself some freedom to talk off the page. Since comics are such a visual medium, I put together a simple PowerPoint to accompany what I said.

When I showed up to the venue with my fellow panelists, we were a bit overwhelmed. There was a huge line of people waiting to enter. Before we got started, almost all of the seats were full, we had people standing in the back, people sitting in the aisles and up front. I’m really bad at estimating numbers of people in a room, but I’ve heard numbers of around 200-300 people were in attendance, which is mind-blowing to me. And is also incredibly flattering.

The panel went rather smoothly. Toward the end we had some technical difficulties (my netbook disconnected from the Internet halfway through a presentation that required a Prezi) but we made do without it. For about 45 minutes afterward, we were still talking to people that attended our panel, and as we walked through the bookfair later that afternoon, we received several compliments on the success of our panel. In short, the panel was very well-received, and for that I am grateful.

If you’d like to hear the audio from the entire panel, here it is:

You’ll have to excuse my horrendous pronunciation of Latin and French terms. At the end, you can also hear some of the more personal Q&As that went on afterward (I forgot to stop recording on my phone). I apologize for this. And as I mentioned earlier, this panel was also accompanied by a PowerPoint (from myself) and a Prezi (from Kirsten, who spoke about Video Games).

I’m currently in the process of organizing and proposing another panel strictly on comics for next year–hopefully it is accepted. :)

If you have any comments, suggestions, or anything else, please comment! I’d love to hear what you have to contribute. Let’s keep this conversation open!

Since my thesis is done and the semester is coming to an end, hopefully I’ll be able to update this blog more often and continue chronicling my growth as a cartoonist and writer. Thank you for your patience and support!

Edit: I’ve finally added a link to the PowerPoint on Comics!

front page DW-WP with the authors' signatures

From The Windy City

I’m writing from Chicago!

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m here for a week to attend the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Annual Conference.

I don’t have a lot of time this week, so there won’t be a comics post and this is going to be brief. Just checking in weekly so you all know I’m alive and still working.

Even though the Conference was only 4 days long, a few friends and I decided to stay for a week so we could enjoy some of what the city has to offer. I’m glad we made that decision. I still won’t be able to see everything, though, the city is huge. But I must say, I do love Chicago. It’s a city that is vibrant with art and book appreciation. The city turns 175 years old today, and that longstanding tradition of history and architecture and the mixing of old and new is present on every street. And everyone here is super nice and friendly. The only drawback is that most of the shops close by 7pm, even on a Friday or Saturday night. Still, I’m having a blast.

The day at AWP I saw looking forward to the most was yesterday, the last day, because of two panels on graphic narrative back to back. One was on literary magazines making room for comics, the other was on pedagogy and using comics in the classroom. Both were very informative panels that I took extensive notes on, so I’ll do a more comprehensive analysis of them when I .get back. The authors of Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, the primary text I’ve been using for my independent study, were on the second panel, so I spotted Matt Madden beforehand and talked with him about how awesome the book is and how I’m excited for the sequel to come out (this May!). He was super nice and incredibly friendly, and he and Jessica Abel signed my book:

front page DW-WP with the authors' signatures

Madden made fun of me because there was eraser dust in the margins.

My experience at AWP was fantastic, and I’m so glad I attended. I’ll share what I learned more in-depth when I get the chance, but for now, I’m off to explore the city!

What I’ve Been Up To Lately

A few months ago, I was asked to visit my alma mater and serve on a panel discussing Art and Comics as Literature during their inaugural Creative Writing Symposium. Naturally, I was flattered and immediately agreed. Later on, I found out that it was the first in a series of major literary events to occur throughout the month of February. I maintained my position on the panel, but unfortunately could not attend the whole symposium on account of my other obligations and the simple necessity of maintaining my sanity during an extremely stressful month.

At the panel, I spoke about the need to teach graphic narrative (/sequential art/comics) in introductory multi-genre creative writing classes. Basically–it’s a disservice not to expose up-and-coming writers to the medium, so that at least they can acquire some sort of fluency with its particular vocabulary and functions. I used an outline of a pedagogical paper I wrote last semester to guide my talking, and while the subject matter appeared to be boring to many of the panel audience (mostly undergrad students), a few did come up to me afterward to ask questions and recommend books to me, which was pretty awesome. Overall, it was a great experience, and I’m incredibly grateful.

At my current university, the literary magazine I help manage partnered with various other local entities in continuing education and journalism and hosted our inagural Writer’s Conference. This conference took place the weekend after the symposium at my alma mater (so, not this current weekend, but the weekend beforehand), which is another one of the reasons why some of my recent posts have been so short. I was on the list of speakers for the conference to serve as a consultant for beginning comics writers, but then a few days before the conference, the primary graphic narrative consultant had to back down and asked if I would be willing to take his place. I told him I’d love to, as long as the conference director and the consults didn’t mind. We ended up not having anyone sign up for conferences, which was a relief because I had a family emergency and had to miss most of the day for which conferences had been scheduled. However, due to the family emergency, I missed both graphic narrative panels at the conference. I’m sad I missed them, but I won’t say I regret it–there are always more opportunities.

At the conference there were great readings by incredibly talented master-writers–all of which read work from unpublished material for the very first time. I am so glad I got to meet and talk with them and really network for my career. I also introduced a few speakers at panels–two of my favorite professors from my undergrad came to talk about starting literary journals, and my thesis director ran a panel on screenwriting–and as a surprise was asked to sit at an Editor’s Round Table panel to represent Managing Editors and answer any questions anyone at the conference had.

This coming week is the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ Annual Conference, and I’m going to attend! This year it’s being held in Chicago. I’ve already scheduled my flight, made hotel reservations, and packed my bags! I’m incredibly excited. On Saturday at the conference, there are two graphic narrative panels I will not miss, one of which features Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, the authors of Drawing Words & Writing Pictures! I’m a nerd, and I’m bringing my textbook for them to sign. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to interview one or both of them on the spot. I know they just finished the sequel to DW-WP, and on Facebook I asked if they would be bringing a copy to AWP for us to take a sneak peek, but Madden replied and said no, unfortunately they don’t have any advance copies. :( But that’s okay, because I’ll get to talk with them! :]

And one last good-news thing to share:

My first comic publication!

My comic, “Justification,” is featured in the 30th Anniversary Issue of The Southeast Review! It’s eight pages long and printed in full color! I’m thrilled to be surrounded by so many talented writers in a gorgeous issue. If you get the chance, you should definitely check it out!